Confusion surrounds petition drive for Entrance to Aspen
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Citizens who are hoping to force a vote on the Entrance to Aspen collected 573 signatures on the petitions they turned in at City Hall last week.
That may be enough. Or not.
How many signatures are actually required is a matter of some confusion, according to City Clerk Kathryn Koch, who tallied them up.
That aside, the legality of the ballot push itself has been called into question, but Koch said she intends to verify the signatures anyway. She counted 573 signatures, but predicted some of them will inevitably be disqualified as she compares the signatures to the names on the city’s list of registered voters. Koch has until Monday to complete that task.
After she has crossed out the names of petitioners who are not registered Aspen voters or are otherwise questionable, she’ll send a certified letter to petition organizer Cliff Weiss, notifying him of the shortfall, if there is one.
This will be a little tricky, since city officials can’t agree on how many signatures the petitioners actually need to collect.
If Weiss’ group intends to force a ballot issue through the citizen’s initiative process, it needs to collect the signatures of 15 percent of the city’s registered voters – or 797 people. The initiative process is used to initiate something new – an ordinance that citizens want enacted, for example, Koch explained.
To force a referendum, citizens must collect the signatures of 10 percent of the city’s registered voters – or 531 names. A referendum allows citizens to repeal an ordinance passed by the City Council.
The petitioners on the entrance issue are hoping to force the council to repeal a resolution that grants an easement to the state for the realignment of Highway 82 across open space on the west side of town.
The petition proposes an ordinance that repeals the resolution and prevents the city from turning the easement over to the Colorado Department of Transportation unless the property transfer is approved by voters.
The problem, Koch said, is the proposed ballot measure doesn’t fit the definition of either a citizen’s initiative or a referendum.
“No one knows what this is,” she said.
“Even we don’t know,” said Bert Myrin, one of the petition drive organizers.
In fact, according to City Attorney John Worcester, citizens have no avenue to repeal a council resolution via an ordinance, which may well render the whole effort moot.
Nonetheless, Koch said she will let the organizers know how many more signatures they need for an initiative versus a referendum.
Once Weiss receives the certified letter, he has two days in which to let Koch know whether or not his group intends to amend the petition with additional signatures. They have 10 days to rectify any shortage.
Then it will be up to the City Council to decide what to do with the results of the petition drive. The council could refuse to put the initiative on a ballot, since it can’t be bound by the results of the vote anyway, according to Worcester.
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